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If I Ran the Zoo
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What's the story?
Seuss's zoo is better and brighter than the ones we know, with its Joats and Lunks and Mulligatawnies from locales like the Desert of Zind and the Wilds of Nantucket. Young Gerald McGrew imagines the creatures he would put on display, the distant lands where he would track them, and the inventive means he would use to trap them.
Is it any good?
IF I RAN THE ZOO is a standard -- and by that meaning the standard -- Seuss joyride of verse and ridiculous creatures. Here is life lived as a fantastical experience, lit by an imagination that shimmers and bursts like fireworks. Though the animals are pure figments, Seuss transports readers into the adventure with Gerald McGrew as he globetrots in search of the best wild animals.
So evocative are the places that an 8-year-old rereading the book after an absence of three years announced "Russia!" when a snow-swept, spruce-darkened village of cupolas came into view. But Seuss stumbles as he dishes up some shockingly quaint verbal and visual racial commentary: "I'll hunt in the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant / With helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant," or the Indian chieftains whom Gerald will display along with the "scraggle-footed Mulligatawny," or the African porters. Now is as good a time as any to have a discussion about this racial typing.